POCATELLO, Idaho — In 12 complete seasons under Randy Rahe, Weber State men’s basketball has finished lower than third place in the Big Sky just once.
That consistency is now in doubt after the Wildcats dropped a 78-74 stunner Monday night in Pocatello to an Idaho State team that was in 10th place at 5-12 before the contest.
After starting conference play 7-1, WSU is officially slumping. The ‘Cats are 3-7 in their last 10 games.
Third place, and its benefits, is still not out of reach for the now-fourth-place Wildcats. Their next two contests come at home to Idaho — who is the fourth-worst team in the country, according to Ken Pomeroy — and then a home matchup with Eastern Washington, currently tied with WSU for fourth.
But the final stretch can’t be business as usual for any hopes of third place, or perhaps even hanging on to a first-round bye.
Monday’s game was another glaring rebounding loss. Brekkott Chapman is still top-15 nationally in defensive rebounding percentage but, as a team, the Wildcats were tops in the Big Sky in that category but are now middle of the pack after a rough few weeks on the glass.
“We just have to put more emphasis on it, come out and play hard,” junior guard Jerrick Harding said after Monday’s loss. “Our last two home games, we should have more energy than the other team. So we can use that to our advantage and end the season strong.”
Freshman guard Israel Barnes wasn’t totally discouraged with his team.
“We’ve been close these last two games with our togetherness and our talking, all that’s been up,” he said. “But everybody’s got to go to the boards.
“We did have the effort today a lot more than we have the past couple games, but it came down to a few possessions where a couple guys should’ve kicked the ball out or we should’ve had a rebound here or there, a missed transition 3, things like that.”
Randy Rahe wants a bit more scratching and clawing from his Wildcats.
“We’ve got to go back to fighting. We’ve got to fight,” Rahe said Monday night. “I thought our kids played hard tonight and were on the same page with each other but, bottom line is, we’ve got to fight harder. That’s what we’re going to do Thursday, we’re going to go fight.”
With two games left?
Harding said they need to play every game like it’s their last, while it’s all in the details for Barnes.
“We just have to focus in and do the little things to win these games,” Barnes said. “We just need to finish games out going into the tournament.”